Earlier this week, Tyshawn Lee, a 9 year old boy in Chicago, was murdered because of his father’s involvement in a gang. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy called it, “probably the most abhorrent, cowardly, unfathomable crime that I’ve witnessed in 35 years of policing.”
Tyshawn’s father, Pierre Stokes, made a statement to the Chicago Tribune: “If it wasn’t a target, he wouldn’t have got hit so many times in the back and the face.”
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time a child this young was killed over suspected gang rivalries this year. Back in July, 7 year old Amari Brown was murdered by a gang who had a rivalry with his father’s gang. That time, the child was accidentally caught in the crossfire.
But this week, it apparently was no accident. Gangs in Chicago are becoming more emboldened, hitting a new low, as this latest horrendous crime shows. According to McCarthy, “This is a different level. These are non-combatants now being assassinated… This is an innocent child, this is a 9-year-old child, targeted, lured to this spot and murdered. This is different.”
On the heels of this brutal homicide, film director Spike Lee released a trailer for his new movie, “Chiraq,” which you can watch for yourself here. The trailer depicts a group of gang members whose girlfriends/wives decide to band together and refuse sex until their criminal men lay down their guns. Samuel L. Jackson narrates part of it standing in the street in a ridiculous mandarin orange colored suit. It appears there is an attempt by the film to be poignant, but the moment fades quickly once a man on screen laments that, “This situation’s out of control, because I’m in front of an empty stripper pole.”
Children are being brutally murdered every day in the streets of Chicago, sometimes by each other. A 9 year old child with no weapon, and no ill intent, was targeted and murdered simply because his father chose to associate with the wrong crowd.
So how are Tyshawn and all of these innocent victims memorialized? By glamorizing and sexualizing this disregard of human life. By making crude sex jokes, as if hundreds of people senselessly losing their lives could ever be humorous.
In Spike Lee’s own words, he says the movie is “satire.” He reportedly spent six weeks in Chicago, filming this movie. He claimed the violence never ceased the entire time. As a well-known influential director, he had a unique opportunity to give his viewers a real, up-close, and personal view of the heartbreaking situation. He made the distinct choice to make a mockery of it instead.
I don’t claim to know the answer to this culture of violence problem, but I know what the answer is not. There are no jokes to be made. If we want to have any hope of saving these children, we must agree on that. We have to show respect for human life. Tyshawn Lee’s life mattered. And not just because mocking it makes for good film copy.
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